“The resurrection of Jesus Christ does not make sense,” says the skeptic. “People do not spontaneously rise from the grave. It is contrary to history and to the laws of nature.”
I say that history and nature do not make sense without the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Let us begin with history.
The existence of the Christian Church is an inexplicable riddle apart from the resurrection. Many people suppose that the Church arose because the disciples of Christ wanted to carry on the teachings of their dead Master. Later they invented the resurrection to enhance the Master’s reputation. Such a notion is completely inconsistent with the available evidence.
The whole New Testament was written within seventy years of Christ’s death, and its consistent testimony is that the resurrection of Christ is the central fact of His life. The four Gospels, which record the words and deeds of Christ, all present the resurrection as the climax of His story, and in all of them hints of the resurrection are woven throughout the text. It is not possible to rip the resurrection out from the teaching of the Gospels without destroying the literary unity of those books.
In the book of Acts, which describes the early spread of Christianity, every sermon reported in detail deals with the resurrection of Christ. Most of the rest of the New Testament consists of letters, and throughout this body of literature the death, resurrection and future return of Christ are presented as crucial factors for moral and spiritual wholeness. The modern notion—that the early disciples wanted to spread the ethical teaching of Jesus—is simply false. The only morality of interest to New Testament authors is that which flows from His death and His bodily resurrection.
The detailed historical evidence for the resurrection of Christ is very impressive, but in this article I wish to make only three points. First, the Church would never have arisen without a firm conviction in the supreme importance of Christ’s resurrection. Second, this conviction must rest on some historical event. Third, no proposed event is able to explain the conviction and the explosive energy of the early church as well as the literal resurrection of Christ. The disciples saw Him repeatedly after His crucifixion. They spoke to Him. They touched Him. They were on fire with the certainly that He was alive.
In the same way, nature itself is inexplicable without the resurrection of Christ. Most ancient cosmologies, except those related to the Bible, are cyclical. The whole cosmos, and often individual human beings, go through a great cycle of birth, growth, death and rebirth. Some modern cosmologies are also cyclical, but there seems to be a growing consensus that the universe will continue to expand and cool forever and finally become incapable of supporting life.
None of these worldviews sees any rational end behind nature. The world and its creatures simply exist. That is all. There is no reason for their being and no purposeful direction for their destiny. Ultimately, nature itself does not make sense.
The resurrection of Christ, however, assures us that the God who created the world and framed its laws came to live among His creatures. He died and rose again—shattering the law that sin leads to death—in order to lead His creation out of death into life. He will come again to complete the restoration of His world to Himself. By His resurrection, Jesus declares that nature is not senseless. It has a goal. Furthermore, by His resurrection He heals the senseless brokenness of human nature for all who trust in Him.
“If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain, your faith also is in vain. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. ‘O death where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15).